Newly-appointed principal secretary, finance, Anirudh Tiwari led a team of officials from the department to New Delhi to meet officials of Union finance ministry to smoothen the process of procurement of wheat crop in the state.
The move comes after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) raised a query, pointing out a gap between the cash credit limit (CCL) given to the state for paddy procurement in the previous Kharif season and the grain handed over to the Food Corporation of India for public distribution.
Procurement of wheat crop is major challenge for the state government which took over a fortnight ago.
The Congress had promised smooth procurement in campaign.
“No, there’s no gap,” said a senior officer of the state food and civil supplies department, who is accompanying Tiwari.
In a presentation to the Union finance ministry, state government officials pointed out that 95% of the CCL received in the Kharif season had been cleared by handing over the paddy of the same amount to the FCI.
The Centre had approved a CCL of Rs 26,000 crore for paddy procurement in the last kharif season.
For wheat procurement in the current Rabi season, the state has sought Rs 20,680 crore.
“Money transaction from one account to another is not so simple. It takes times for it to debit into one account and credit into another. If there’s a negligible gap, it doesn’t mean the Punjab government has defaulted,” said another officer.
He added that the delivery of shelled rice from paddy was still on and the accounts reflected a gap of Rs 250 crore, which was less than 1% of the total CCL received in the previous Kharif season.
Wheat arrival, in small quantity, has started arriving in the state’s grain mandis, but Central funds for procurement, as sources said might take few more days to reach the state coffers.
The centre’s reprimand came as a shock to the state government. Till recently, the norm fixed by the former to seek CCL was to settle the accounts of the last CCL received for the same crop.
“A sudden change in system has led to the delay in arrival of funds for the current crop season in which the arrivals have started. We had sent details of settling the account of CCL received in the Rabi season of 2015-16. Now they want details of the previous (Kharif) crop. We are in the process of compiling this,” another official from the food department said.
FUNDS FOR PROCUREMENT TO BE RELEASED SOON: MANPREET
Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal told HT that the release of the CCL was likely by Monday late night or Tuesday morning.
He added that this has been delayed as April 1 and 2 were holidays in the Reserve Bank of India.
On restrictions by the Centre, he said, “Punjab is buying wheat not for self consumption, but on behalf of the Centre for the Public Distribution System (PDS), fulfilling 40% of the total need. If they need it they (the centre) should give us money, or tell us in advance we will convey this to our farmers.”